A run of eight wins and a draw going into a championship deciding match gives one plenty of reasons to be optimistic. But like every other statistic ever produced, the bare numbers do not quite give you the whole picture. During that run Chelsea played three Champions League games, two of them at The Bridge, none of which was won, a stat that comes closer to revealing the truth about how difficult we have found breaking down any half decent team this season.
That stat also conveniently hides the fact that the eight wins and the draw were all against teams in the lower half of the table except for Manchester City. It also does not tell the story of the few chances we create during a game, and how close we came to dropping points that would have extinguished any hope of challenging for the title for as long as we did.
And so it has come to be that for the first time since 2005 we go into the last two weeks of the season with absolutely nothing to play for. One could say that the last two fixtures in 2005 and 2006 were also meaningless but only because the Premiership trophy was safely on display in the trophy cabinet.
Allow me to join the finger pointing brigade by stating that there are three reasons for this season’s miserable outcome and Carlo Ancelotti has to take the blame for two of them.
The first is as obvious as sand would be in a stroll in the Sahara. No plan B with no width. Time after time after time we are like a battering ram trying to break teams down through the middle. There was the odd team here and there that eventually succumbed but on the whole most have coped by simply flooding the central midfield area. It also explains why Torres has looked so awful. For all the criticism that our midfield trio have taken for their lack of creativity, it has not really been their fault. Any combination containing Lampard, Mikel, Essien and Ramires will work its socks off but none of them is capable of going on a dribble to take out two or three opponents.
The fault lies with Ancelotti trying to replicate his AC Milan system with players who are totally different to what he had at his old club. At Milan he had Pirlo, a type of holding midfielder as far removed from Mikel or Essien as my bank account is from that of Bill Gates. While Pirlo could not tackle to save his life, he could spray seventy yard passes to free Shevchenko and Inzaghi in the blink of an eye. And then he had Kaka in his prime, a player who would start a run from his own half and take out half the opposing team in one move. Just ask any United fan who will surely remember his exploits at Old Trafford in the Champions League. We simply do not have that type of player and the system Carlo has dogmatically stuck with does not suit our more muscular midfield.
Or do we? Which brings me nicely to my second point – Carlo’s total lack of belief in our youngsters. Lampard’s injury should have been the time to shuffle the pack and bring in young Josh McEarchran. In the few minutes he was given here and there he rarely put a foot wrong and showed he had the vision, touch, ability and range of passing required at the very top. Yes he is (or was at the time) just seventeen but plenty of youngsters with his exceptional talent have cut it at the highest level and there wasn’t anything to suggest that Josh couldn’t have made it too. He is different from all the midfielders at the club with a creative streak none of the others have in their DNA.
Daniel Sturridge is another case in point. His success at Bolton only proves what I was thinking every time he came on as substitute in a Chelsea shirt. My question to Carlo would be – at the very least was Sturridge any worse than Kalou, Anelka, the often indolent Malouda or a patently unfit Drogba? The answer should be a resounding no, which then begs the question as to why he was not given more starts and playing time.
Finally, the strange goings on behind the scenes certainly did not help. Ray Wilkins’ sacking was the most senseless decision taken since Roman Abramovich took over the club. What made even less sense was the appointment of his replacement. Five months down the line can anyone tell me exactly what Michael Emelano’s cv looks like and what he brought to the table? But then the Chelsea hierarchy does have a history in this department. Anyone out there remember a guy called Avram Grant, brought in to replace Jose’ Mourinho? The same bloke who in two weeks time will establish a new Premiership record by taking his team into the Championship two years in succession, the latest one with no less than four England regular squad members.
What is done is done. Season 2010/11 is gone forever. The only thing that can be salvaged from the disappointment is the lesson learnt – by the players, the coach and the hierarchy. Much is made of stability at any club but again for every stat there are two sides of the coin. For all the stability at Arsenal, they have been without a trophy since their lucky FA Cup win in 2005. Their stability in the meantime has brought in zero trophies while our instability has brought us eight major trophies (ten if you count the Community Shield).
Carlo has to go. Over two seasons his style of play has been too one dimensional. Even when doing the double, the greatest achievement ever by any Chelsea manager, his system was dependant on all eleven players playing at their best most of the time. When that did not happen this year he had no alternative system, or lacked the courage to try a new one. Over the two seasons he has been in charge we have lost fourteen Premiership games, compared to just seventeen in the previous five seasons. And fortress Stamford Bridge is no more. Four league home defeats in two seasons compared to just two over the previous five. What I think tips the scales in Roman’s eyes probably is none of all this. Carlo was supposedly brought in to fulfill the owner’s dream of winning the Champions League. Two years down the line in six knock out games we have lost four, drawn one and won just one. We have failed to win any one of the three home games.
So to hell with all this stability talk Roman. Go get the great Guus alongside God – aka GFZ.